One of the biggest, most ambitious restaurant openings of the year (or any year) just took place in the Loop, with the launch of Latinicity Food Hall & Lounge on the third floor of the Block 37 shopping center (108 N. State Street).
This Latin-accented juggernaut of a space is part marketplace, part dining complex, part retail, part bar, and entirely awe-inspiring. The hulking project comes courtesy of world-renowned chef Richard Sandoval, who's making his Chicago debut with chef Jose Garces of Mercat a la Planxa and Rural Society. Together, the two culinary titans compiled a veritable Latin wonderland that meanders around the urban mall, taking guests from one dining experience to the other. Altogether, Latinicity creates the transportive feel of a street cart Mecca in Latin America, with different eateries designed to resemble street carts.
Here's an overview of what to expect and how to explore this immersive food hall.
The first things you'll experience upon entry to Latinicity is a Latin art gallery, a full-service tapas restaurant Pata Negra, and a marketplace and retail area chock full of imported provisions and Latinicity branded goods. For the Latin cook or those looking to expand their horizons with authentic Latin wares, this is an apt place to stock up. They also have some of the largest jars of dulce de leche I've ever seen, so that's appealing.
Beyond the market comes the eateries, most of which are counter service, fast-paced, and casual. All in all, there are 12 counters, each one exhibiting a different facet of Latin dining culture. You've got the hamburguesa eatery, the ensalada station, one slinging sushi, one with wok-cooked rices and stir-fries, another with tacos, a Latin grill laden with smoky meats, a seafood shop, and a coffee shop. Not to mention the expansive bar in the very rear of the food hall.
When experienced as a cohesive whole, Latinicity strings Latin culture together in a lively, vibrant, and exciting way. Ample use of greenery and dim lighting throughout the space lends a tropical vibe to the space, which gains a burst of light in the back dining area filled with tables and chairs. This area, overlooking the bustling corner of Randolph and Dearborn, provides a sprawling vista of Chicago's Loop.
And that's not all. On the lower level of Block 37, Latinicity operates Loncheria by Latinicity in the busy commuter pedway that connects to the CTA Red Line and Blue Line trains. Here you'll find to-go items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, like sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, tacos, and sweets.
Photos courtesy of Latinicity; Chicken Mole Cazuela; Cubano Torta